On Thursday, we will spend time with family.

We will eat a lot of food.

We will watch football and parades.

And we will be thankful.

Or will we? I’m completely certain of the first three things. I’m not so sure of the last.

People complain about how the retailers have completely overshadowed Thanksgiving with their Black Friday sales. It’s true, but I don’t blame the retailers. I cannot blame the retailers for the fact that there are, apparently, people willing to camp out for two weeks for a cheap television. It is not the fault of the retailers that those people probably never did the math to figure out how much they are losing in lost wages verses how much they will save on such a television.

No, I don’t blame the retailers for giving people an opportunity to show what is already in their hearts. If people did not want to spend their Novembers this way, it would not work as a business model.

I don’t think the American church has done anything about it, either, with our massively consumeristic church culture that has been built.

And so, as we near Thanksgiving, I am left with one conclusion…

That we are not thankful.

Because I have to believe that the foundation of gratitude is contentment. If people were content, they would see no need to bust down doors at Wal-Mart. They would know that they have enough.

I am not sure that enough is in our vocabulary anymore. And so, I have to go to the wisdom of a different culture and faith, a faith that never knew the joys of Black Friday…

enough

If we only brought back the word “enough” into our vocabulary, it would change everything. It would change the way we do business. It would change the way we raise our kids. It would change the way we worship. Enough makes people happy. More always leaves people wanting.

You have enough.

You are enough.

What’s up, everyone? It seems like everyone is just kind of puttering toward the finish line, trying to get to Thanksgiving break, trying to tie up loose ends while we run on fumes…at least that’s me! It is seasons like this, when I am busiest and time is shortest that I am most thankful for good things to read and watch.

This is what fueled me this week.

In My Netflix QueueAlive-Inside-Film-Poster-2014

Last weekend, Cheri and I watched an unusual amount of stuff, including going to the theater to see Bird Man (incredible). But we also stumbled across this documentary, Alive Inside about the effect that music has on elderly people with alzheimer’s or memory loss. Beautiful and provocative and I am not exaggerating when I say that it brought me to tears more than once. And when I showed it to my pregnant Cheri, forget it.

In My Blog Reader

Plenty of good stuff in my blog reader this week, all of it from the ladies. The guys must already be on vacation or something.

Just this morning, Addie Zierman posted a heart-rending story about a friend and family man who is experiencing a season of suffering that we all pray we never experience.

In time for the Thanksgiving holiday, Emily Wierenga discusses what our kids need to know about third-world gratitude (hint: being around third world kids reveals the hearts of our own children by comparison, and probably our own.)

Jamie the VWM talks about her distaste for short term missions and why $30,000 might not be such a terrible waste of money.

Micha Boyett shares the pain of miscarriage, a grief that many couples will be experiencing all over again this holiday season.

And Holley Gerth talks about what introverts like me can offer this holiday season, outside of awkward and painful small talk about the local weather.

That’s it from me! I will see you next week.

I have a confession to make.worship_by_knilvrie

I have spent my life in church. A preacher’s kid, then a seminary grad. Now, after seven years of house church ministry, my wife and I are embarking on a new chapter. We don’t even know what the chapter is. There is no invitation to another church, no greener pasture that we are making a break for. We have done this thing longer than the average pastor stays at a full time church ministry.

What we do know is that making a transition, finding a new place is going to be hard. We both feel like we have some odd angles, some characteristics that make it challenging for us to settle into a new place. She is a raving introvert, while I am an introvert who can act like an extrovert…sort of.

And what we find to be the case is that church is a decidedly extroverted place. A bunch of extroverts usually stand up front. By and large, modern worship, church life and leadership values extrovertism over characteristics, such as contemplativeness.

And so, as we prepare to embark on a transition we are both kind of dreading, it makes me think of all of the churches I have visited, all of the places I have worshiped (or at least tried to worship.) It makes me think of all the reasons that two pretty introverted people have kind of a tough time with church, even though we love it.

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I love doing creative things.

I had a phase where I painted landscapes nonstop. Today, I’m getting pretty serious on the throwing wheel. And I still love to write.

But I’ll tell you what feeds me just as much as my creative projects…

Investing in other peoples’ creative projects.

That’s why I love to be a teacher. I love investing myself in the students. I love pouring into them. Of course, they are a captive audience, but they do not have to take my advice. There is no doubt that pouring into kids has sharpened my own skills.

It’s funny how that works. We know that we are finite creatures with finite time, finite energy, finite resources. We might be tempted to hoard ourselves, protect our time, save our energy for ourselves. We might think that if we save it all for ourselves that our own work will be better.

But I have found that is hardly ever the case. I do not think any creative person can get better without pouring a little into others. I do not think any person of faith can grow their faith without pouring a little into others.

The great truth is that you are a renewable resource. You may be depleted at the end of a day. But you regenerate. And the more you pour yourself into other people, the bigger return you get. It’s amazing! Pour more out, get more back.

Charles Spurgeon knew this. He wasn’t an advocate for keeping you to yourself.

water

What if we dropped what we were doing today?

What if we dropped all of our projects and paid attention to what someone else was doing? Just to pour into them, just to encourage them, just to take joy in what they were doing, without any kind of jealousy or self-awareness or comparison?

It might do us some good.

 

It’s hard to believe that Plus or Minus is just a couple of months away, but it’s true. And while there has been a flurry of activity here in the PlusOrMinus_Revisions1_June9background, I’m really most excited about what is going on up front.

New Faces

It is amazing how something that used to isolate us now connects us with people. I’ve been so enthralled by all of the new connections, all of the people who are eager to share their stories, even if they happened twenty years ago!

New Stories

It also amazes me every time I connect with someone new, how much other people have suffered in order to have children. Believe me, Cheri and I did not write this book because we thought we had it the worst. Far from it. But it is a testament to the human spirit how much people are willing to endure for children who do not yet exist.

New Events

We have also got two pre-release events that are really exciting and those of you in the Kansas City area should definitely come out. First, in a couple of weeks, Saturday December 6, I’ll be here for a local author book fair. I’ll be talking about the writing and publishing process, not to mention giving away Plus or Minus.

Next, we have nailed down a launch event for Plus or Minus in the heart of the city. We are calling it Stories of Redemption and I just cannot wait to see how it will bring people together and give them hope and encouragement. In the end, our redemption does not come from having children, but somewhere else entirely.

That is what is fueling me this week! See you on the other side.



Trigger Warning: This post references topics such as sexual abuse.not_that_kind_of_girl_by_lena_dunham_WEB

Well, we are not exactly Lena Dunham. That would be weird.

A lot has been made of the revelations from Girls star Lena Dunham’s memoir. What may have been intended as a collection of awkward stories from her formative years has now cranked the internet controversy up to eleven. If you have not read the excerpts in question, just google them. The long and short of it is that Dunham, in her own words, compares herself to a child predator as she retells incidents of…erm…close contact with her little sister.

Dozens of writers and commentators have quoted Dunham’s words verbatim, letting her own stories speak for themselves. Thousands of people have tweeted and blogged, often their disgust to Dunham. Dunham has fired back by “rage spiraling” on Twitter and siccing her lawyers on people, threatening defamation lawsuits.

The whole time I took this in, I realized something.

There are a lot of people who consider Dunham’s stories icky at best and predatory at worst. There are some who cannot understand why she would share such things.

But if any of us were in Lena Dunham’s shoes, I think we would have done the same thing. We are not so different from her.

Here’s what I mean.

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